The Bottom Line not The Flat Line: How to evaluate your success and your risks with your PPC Campaign

Know the risks in order for success.

In the plethora of digital marketing, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) has proved its worth of being one of the best platforms for online advertising (Kapoor et al., 2016).

And as the goal of any marketing campaign is to generate the highest possible Return On Investment (ROI) (McCormick, 2017), PPC contributes directly to your business goals – it’s a fantastic way of elevating business visibility, aiding your sales funnel and giving searchers awareness of your business and taking them down the path from prospector to customer.

Paid media is the most popular form of digital marketing right now (Kapoor et al., 2016), and as investing in PPC is one of the key marketing channels proposed by Chaffey (2015) and can be integral to your marketing plan.

However, before you embark on a PPC campaign, know the hallmarks of success and the risks in order to have a successful marketing campaign.

What to know before you start to make sure your PPC campaign is ‘done well’

  1. Determine your goals and set them up on Google AdWords, whether it be to increase subscribers, sales, or your brand awareness. A handy how-to on how to set up your goals can be found here.
  2. Know your target audience.
  3. Define a budget – set your maximum Cost per Acquisition (CPA) bids.
  4. Know what keywords you are going to build your campaign around. Any campaign starts with keyword research and the success relies on your keyword research.
  5. Know how your landing page is doing – look at your analytics according to Plaza et al., 2011 (more on this later) and optimise your landing page.

Source: (Mordkovich & Mordkovich, 2005).

For more information, use this helpful guide  as to how to start a successful PPC campaign.

Know the risks: Loosing Valuable Traffic

Luxury Car Traffic Jam
Valuable Traffic: Try not to loose them.

It is imperative you know the risks before you start your campaign.

Google has a wealth of data available, so make sure to make best use of the data at your fingertips and look to Google Trends to understand the upcoming trends in your industry, in order to ‘nowcast’, which is, predicting the present (Choi and Varian, 2012, Andersson and Reijer, 2015). Google trends can provide estimates of macroeconomic trends weeks or even months before initial estimates are produced (Onorante, 2013), meaning you can stay ahead of the curve and observe internet browsing habits, and learn about aggregate consumer behaviour – which is especially important in an emerging market (Carriere-swallow and Labbe, 2009). Search volume reflects interest and trends in your industry, so dig deeper and review the search queries that you believe are most important to your business.

Knowing your trends is also useful to know when is best to launch your campaign, or adjust your cost-per-click (CPC) bidding – how much you’re prepared to pay for a click against competitors (McCormick, 2017). For example, the chart below clearly shows interest in Christmas starts increasing fourfold during the last week of August, and dramatically starts increasing after the main autumnal holiday – Halloween on 31st October.

Google AdWords Graphy
Interest in Christmas in England as a search term: makes sense. Source: Google Trends (2018)

It’s worth spending more time with this tool so to reveal more insights. Say you’re selling Christmas trees and are running a PPC campaign in the run up to Christmas, logic may have it that running a post-Christmas PPC campaign, or not decreasing your CPC bidding, is a fruitless exercise.

However, when looking at interest over time for artificial Christmas trees versus real Christmas trees, the drop off in interest is 24th December for real trees, compared to a week after for artificial Christmas trees – meaning you could benefit from running your campaign for one more week for artificial trees and gain a week of extra traffic – and a week of possible sales!

Google Adwords Graph
Comparison of interest in Artificial Christmas trees and real Christmas trees in England as a search term. Source: Google Trends (2018)

This is due to a product’s ‘shelf life’, boxing day sales may encourage avid searchers to get an artificial Christmas tree at a great price for next year, however unless you’re into A Nightmare before Christmas, you can’t do that with a real tree. Knowing your trends will allow you not to overspend unnecessarily, and also not to loose valuable traffic.

The Risk: Competition affecting your Ads visibility

dog and cat
Dogs Versus Cats: Stay Ahead of the Competiton

You may find that search trends relating to the keywords within your campaigns don’t move significantly. However, dips in your campaign’s performance can be linked to increased competition on the keywords your bidding for. As competitors increase their bids, you’ll find your visibility may decrease, as you sway from pole position, which would get you almost immediately further down the page, or even to page 2 (the horror!), leaving your advert easily ignored (Eaton & Kenyon, 2014).

So how do you avoid this risk?

Solution: Bid adjustments and scheduling

You can adjust your CPC bid amounts for different locations, times of the week, as well as the type of device. For example, you may find your conversion rate is higher over the weekend, or on mobile, so increase your CPC to this time and device will mean a better placement, and more traffic coming from these sources to your website (Chen et al., 2007). It means you can spend higher on more profitable traffic, and spend less on less profitable traffic. However, as discussed earlier, it is important to note that a lower position can leave an advertisement easily ignored (Eaton & Kenyon, 2014) so only decrease your CPC bid amounts if you’ve checked your data and you know it’s efficiently utilising your resources.

This may take some playing around; the bottom line is that your aim is to find an optimal dynamic advertising policy, in order to maximise your total revenue (Chen et al., 2007) from the resources given.

The Risk: Many Clicks, Low Conversion Rate

What makes Google’s PPC model so tantalising for business owners and marketers alike is that no clicks = no cost. However, this is precisely what can make it a very expensive process and no guarantee of your ROI.

You may have your keywords meticulously chosen, your ad copy has beautifully written, and you find you are attracting the right high quality traffic. However, this is all pointless unless your landing page is relevant to your ad. A good quality, relevant landing page also contributes to your quality score – the better your quality score, the lower your cost-per-click will be (McCormick, 2017).


fish jumping into a bowl
Convert those fish! (and customers too)

Make sure you look at the analytics for your landing page and know how well your landing page is performing, using a data driven approach. We recommend using the following KPIs to measure your website effectiveness namely: hit rate, pages per visit, length per visit, pages per visit, bounce rate, and return rate (Plaza et al., 2011) to see how well your page is performing. Also, make sure your landing page is relevant to what your PPC campaign is advertising.

The Risk: PPC Fraud: What is it and how to stop it

robber at desk
Just one click? Be aware of click fraud.

Seen as a renowned drawback of PPC advertising (Cudmore et al., 2009), click fraud is where there are fraudulent clicks on your advert, whether it be by a robot or a human (Kapoor et al., 2016). And it’s a hot topic for academics too – although literature on PPC is limited, of these limited publications, most are interested in click fraud (Kapoor et al., 2016).

It can be done as competitor fraud – done by a competitor to exhaust your PPC advertising budget (Kshetri, 2013) or executed as publisher fraud, with the purpose of generating revenue for the web publishers (Soubusta, 2008). Either way, not only does it harm your budget, it also affects Google’s set prices for keywords. This is because Google sets prices for keyword based on their popularity (Mordkovich and Mordkovich, 2005). Thus, with click fraud, the number of clicks on an advertisement increases, as well as for that associated keyword. Thus, the prices rise globally for all advertisers, and not just for the victim (Mordkovich and Mordkovich, 2005).



Google does have an advanced ‘three pronged’ system in order to detect click fraud, using live reviewers, automatic filters, machine learning, and deep research (Google, 2018). However, if you feel you are subject to click fraud which is not being detected by Google, Kshetri (2013) proposes seeking assistance from third parties – there a various sites you can try. We recommend PPC Protect – you can get your free 30 day trial from PPC Protect here.

If you use PPC, you can also see for yourself how many invalid clicks have been proactively filtered from your Google AdWords account.

Of course, you detect any suspicious activity yourself, Google encourages you to report any suspicious activity on your site with the Invalid Clicks Contact Form.

Still want some more information on how to prevent click fraud? Watch this quick ‘how to’ below. Happy PPC-ing!


Andersson, M.K. & Ard HJ den Reijer 2015, “Nowcasting”, Sveriges Riksbank Economic Review, , no. 1, pp. 75.

Carrière‐Swallow, Y. & Labbé, F. 2013, “Nowcasting with Google Trends in an Emerging Market”, Journal of Forecasting, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 289-298.

Chaffey, D. 2015, Digital business and e-commerce management: strategy, implementation and practice, Sixth edn, Pearson, Harlow, England.

Chen, F.Y., Chen, J. & Xiao, Y. 2007, “Optimal Control of Selling Channels for an Online Retailer with Cost‐per‐Click Payments and Seasonal Products”, Production and Operations Management, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 292-305.

Chot H. & Varian, H. (2012) Predicting the Present with Google Trends”, Economic Record, vol. 88, no. 1, pp. 2-9.

Cudmore, B.A., McCoy, J., Shuhy, J., & Taylor, J. (2009). Engaging online consumers with an interactive cost-per-action advertising model. Journal of Internet Commerce, 8(3-4), 288-308. (2018). Google Ad Traffic Quality. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Feb. 2018].

Google Trends. (2018). Google Trends. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Feb. 2018].

Kapoor, K.K., Dwivedi, Y.K. & Piercy, N.C. 2016, “Pay-per-click advertising: A literature review”, The Marketing Review, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 183-202.

Koop, G, (2013). Macroeconomic Nowcasting Using Google Probabilities University of Strathclyde. Luca Onorante, European Central Bank.

Kshetri, N. (2013). Reliability, Validity, Comparability and Practical Utility of Cybercrime-Related Data, Metrics, and Information. Information, 4(1), 117-123; doi: 10.3390/info4010117

McCormick, K. (2017). What is Paid Search Advertising and Why Use It? | ThriveHive. [online] ThriveHive. Available at: [Accessed 6 Jan. 2018].

Mordkovich, B., & Mordkovich, E. (2005). Pay-per-click search engine marketing handbook. New York:

Soubusta, S. (2008). On click fraud. Information-Wissenschaft Und Praxis, 59(2), 136- 141.





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